By Matthew Willett
Medarex Inc. joined with Genmab A/S to collaborate with Glaucus Proteomics B.V. on an antibody generation deal that could lead to proteomics mapping tools in addition to therapeutic antibodies.
Medarex spin-off Genmab will take the lead in the production of antibodies against Glaucus targets, and the scope of the deal could be exceptionally large, according to Genmab CEO Lisa Drakeman.
"We expect it to be very big," Drakeman told BioWorld Today. "It won't be five or six antibodies. It will probably be along the lines of the Oxford Glycosciences [plc, of Oxford, UK] deal, and they said publicly it's likely they'll bring about 30 targets. It'll probably be of that scope."
The deal, which amounts to a cost- and profit-sharing arrangement between the companies, calls for co-ownership of commercialization rights to the antibodies the deal produces.
That ownership and the resultant boost to the company pipelines is exactly the benefit both Genmab, of Copenhagen, Denmark, and Medarex, of Princeton, N.J., see downstream.
Medarex CEO Donald Drakeman told BioWorld Today the deal follows Medarex's strategic plans.
"In an industry in which anywhere from 70 [percent] to 80 percent of new products end up falling by the wayside it's essential to have a broad pipeline. Since genomics and, now, proteomics, have been generating, and are continuing to generate, new target opportunities, we've had the chance to build a broad pipeline that's normally associated only with big pharmaceutical companies," Medarex's Drakeman said. "For target companies in the U.S. we enter into two-way deals, and for those in Europe we partner with Genmab in three-way deals. That way we have the chance to take more shots on goal with less cost because we're sharing development costs and risk with two other companies."
Drakeman's characteristic "shots on goal" theory is one the company has long followed. The deal with Glaucus represents the 33rd UltiMAB technology antibody generation deal for Medarex. UltiMAb technology creates fully human high-affinity monoclonal antibodies with HuMAb-Mouse transgenic mice.
The most recent deal for antibody generation came last week when Medarex partnered with Schering-Plough Corp., of Kenilworth, N.J., for the production of antibodies against undisclosed targets. (See BioWorld Today, March 30, 2001.)
In 2000, deals for antibody production, contract and grant revenues accounted for about 94 percent of Medarex's $22.5 million in total revenues.
Genmab's Drakeman said the deal is a fulfillment of the Danish company's mission. "It's our job to find these collaborations in Europe," she said.
"These collaborations are done a little differently," she continued. "With our genomics and proteomics partners, Genmab and Medarex want to build our own portfolios of therapeutics, instead of asking for milestones and royalties like we generally do. We put in the antibody, and the target identification company puts in the disease target. Glaucus, in this case, will bring the disease targets, and we'll begin antibody co-development through Phase II at least, and share the costs and commercial rights."
Privately held Glaucus, of the Netherlands, will use the antibodies as therapeutics in their own right, for diagnostics, and further, for screening activities around the Human Proteome Project.
Glaucus said it intends to establish a warehouse of fully human antibodies to construct an antibody reporter matrix. That matrix will form the basis for an assay for signature profiling of healthy and diseased tissues using a chip-based differential protein expression level analysis system, a system similar to a cDNA biochip.
To create the matrix and assay, Glaucus will use its proprietary surface chemistry technology and proprietary robotic engines capable of screening more than 100 million ELISA-equivalents per day per robot.
Glaucus officials were unavailable for comment Monday.
Medarex's stock (NASDAQ:MEDX) fell $2.375 Monday, closing at $14.312. n